Featured Tapa (I think) from where?

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by Jeff Drum, Feb 3, 2020.

  1. Jeff Drum

    Jeff Drum Well-Known Member

    One of the best things about reading this forum is finding out about pieces that I knew nothing about before (like Tapa cloth). Which is also one of the worst things since there is more to look at and wonder about (and worst of all bring home)!

    Anyway, I assume this is a relatively recent late 20th century tourist piece of little value, but since its the only Tapa I've ever seen IRL I thought I'd check it out here. At least two layers, maybe three. About 2 ft. by 3 ft. Anyone know where this would have been from? And whether it is worth keeping?
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  2. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

  3. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    It looks Samoan to me. Tapa is called siapo in Samoa.
    I agree, no great age, Taupou will probably be able to give a better time frame.
  4. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    Yes, it is a piece of Samoan siapo, commonly called tapa cloth.

    Although it has been made for the tourist trade as long as there have been tourists in the Samoan Islands, siapo has been an important part of Samoan culture for centuries, and continues to be. It's been used for clothing, bedding, weddings and funerals, ceremonies, "room dividers," and in the latter part of the 20th century, recognized as a cultural heritage that could and should be preserved and shared.

    Making tapa cloth from the pounded bark of the mulberry tree is a time-consuming process, however, and one that fewer and fewer people are learning about and continuing.

    So keep it for yourself if you like it, or give or sell it to someone who collects it, but definitely don't simply discard it. It usually isn't recognized by most people, (and often shows up on ebay and similar sites as African, or Native American), but those who do know about it, will want it.

    It dates probably ca. 1960s or so, and while monetary value is probably not great, it is very well done, and graphic.
  5. Jeff Drum

    Jeff Drum Well-Known Member

    Thank you Taupou and all of you for your help, that is great information! I guess its one more thing I need to keep - I'll put it with my other few pieces of South Pacific native art. I have a couple masks that I think are from there. Guess I need to take pictures of those too :rolleyes:
    Any Jewelry, kyratango and aaroncab like this.
  6. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    Polynesians don't have a history of using masks in their culture, so it's very unlikely it's Samoan. But Papua New Guinea is usually considered South Pacific, and has a long tradition of masking.

    So please post the photos, if I don't recognize it, someone else here probably will
  7. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    Jeff Drum likes this.
  8. Jeff Drum

    Jeff Drum Well-Known Member

    Yes, I was thinking PNG for the first two. The second not really a mask since no eye-holes though I read somewhere that could be correct anyway? The third I would guess to be from Africa, but I'll include it here since I really don't know. These three are all relatively recent acquisitions so I haven't hung them up yet; I've been collecting masks for many years and have a couple dozen on my office wall. These two are the only ones I think from PNG, though I have quite a few from Indonesia as well.
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    Any Jewelry likes this.
  9. Jeff Drum

    Jeff Drum Well-Known Member

    Here's the third. Quite large, and some condition issues on one side, but that shows the type of wood in the last pic. I avoided buying it for quite a while because of condition and since I couldn't place it. But I do like the look so finally broke down and bought it when it was dirt cheap.
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    Figtree3 likes this.
  10. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    The first is a yam mask, from the Abelam people of the East Sepik Province. Many of their ceremonies are based around yams.

    These are not the yams you find in our local grocery stores, but giant yams, that can be 6-10 feet long. The bigger the yam, the more prestige and status for the grower. The yams (believed to be embodiments of their ancestors) are painted, dressed, decorated, and wear these special masks during the harvest festival and ceremonies. The masks are discarded, or sold, after the ceremony, being used only once.
  11. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    The second mask is from the Middle Sepik River region of PNG. where the cowrie shell eyes, rather than actual eye holes, are commonly used.

    Although they do make carved decorative shields and boards (usually larger than this), that are similar, for their ceremonial houses, this was probably carved for the tourist trade, rather than for their own use, since it has a hole to hang it from, and it is more a mask-sized wall decoration since it isn't carved out in back to fit over a face.
  12. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    The third piece isn't really based on any particular traditional mask, although it does appear to be African, carved for the tourist market. It has some characteristics of being from the Ivory Coast area, with the long nose that extends into the arched eyebrows, the horns, and "scarification" marks on the forehead, but is more a fantasy piece than a representation of a known mask.
  13. Figtree3

    Figtree3 What would you do if you weren't afraid?

    @Taupou your posts are always informative and written in very clear language. Thank you for participating in discussions here on Antiquers.
    all_fakes and Any Jewelry like this.
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